China isn’t the red communist country of same-faced okay men and yessir women that the past presented. The nation formerly under Mao’s cultural servitude is now brimming with hip artists, free thinkers and incredibly fashionable people. This was especially true during the COART international artists festival in Shu He Ancient City during the start of this month. Folks of past traditions mixed with young artists from around the world in the historic town, creating a dichotomy of old and new that was visually appealing.
It was like a weight holding us down, preventing us from moving. They called it the hottest place in Europe, I later learned after reading the papers. Ferrara, serving as the host city for an annual tradition dating back to 1279, brings a number of towns together for the Palio di Ferrara. In colored vestments and heavy armor, participants paraded down the main street. How could they survive in this heat when I can barely lift an arm for my Caffè Shakerato, I wondered, already perspiring. Thankfully, they managed, and we were presented with an amazing series of colorful visuals, flag dances and marching bands. Continue reading “Palio di Ferrara – The medieval festival in photos and video”
“Put your robe on the hanger,” the massaggiatrice said to me in Italian.
I was wearing board shorts and Calvin Klein briefs (in case you needed the image).
“Now take those off but sdfjl;aghnasmdfnsdfj.” I didn’t understand the last part, so I responded with my stock phrase of not being able to understand Italian sometimes.
“Okay. Your swimming clothes…” “Yes.”
“Are you wearing anything underneath?” “Underpants.”
“Okay. Take the shorts; leave the underwear.” “Understood.”
The important matter of how much clothes to take off demands further confirmation.
So began my first spa experience, a full-body oil massage in the Hotel delle Terme Santa Agnese in Bagno di Romagna, a popular spa town in Emilia-Romagna. The scent of steam and sulfur is apparent upon entering the city as thermal water flows naturally here. Bagno di Romagna consists of one main street and a large central piazza. Each of its many shops are charming and friendly, and the town features high-end, even Michelin-starred restaurants. The BlogVille team was lucky enough to dine at such a restaurant with the distinguished leaders of the Emilia-Romagna tourism board. Continue reading “La Notte Celeste in Bagno di Romagna – Oiled up and rubbed down in an Italian spa town”
Everyone loves a nice horse-drawn carriage ride, so it should be of no surprise that the BlogVille crew had such a great time at Foce Bevano, a natural reserve in the Parco Regionale del Delta del Po in Savio, Emilia-Romagna. The Centro Visite Cubo Magico Bevanella sits at the heart of the reserve, providing a multimedia, educational introduction to the wildlife residing here. From colorful birds to foxes, the protected area hides a variety of interesting creatures. The plant life and ecological offerings are equally as expansive. Services include bike and boat rentals, as well as the aforementioned horse-drawn carriage tour, providing a multitude of fun and affordable methods for exploring the grounds.
It’s a great attraction for those looking for nature and tranquility. My only advice is to cover up if you’re sensitive to mosquitoes (even still, they bit me through my shirt!) and to be sure to catch the beautiful sunset. The strong wind that Dante described in his literature still exists today, creating a sweeping effect of grass against the light.
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Continue reading “A carriage ride through the Parco Delta del Po in Savio”
It’s not often that I can say I sat in a conference room with the mayor of a medieval Italian town to talk about my blog. (Yes, this blog.) A few days ago, the BlogVille crew met the fine folks running Pennabilli, a hilltop town in Emilia-Romagna. They welcomed us to their wonderful home prior to the start of perhaps their largest celebration.
The name of the city derives from two formal rivals, those living in the castles at Penna and those at Billi. In the 16th century, they joined together to form the city now known as Pennabilli. Today, the city houses notable art installations by poet and intellectual Tonino Guerra, as well as attractions like meditation gardens and Tibetan bells donated from the Dalai Lama. More relevant to this post, Pennabilli hosts an annual three-day festival known as Artisti in Piazza – Festival Internazionale dell’Arte in Strada (“Artists in the Piazza – The International Festival of Street Art”), drawing innovative entertainers from around the world to their cobblestone streets.
If you should ever find yourself in Emilia-Romagna during the time of this festival, do yourself a favor and join in on the fun. It’s full of good people, great shows and really delicious food. Even without Artisti in Piazza, Pennabilli is a beautiful place to visit, as evidenced by the videos and photos below.
The above video is a quick representation of the devastating effects of the recent slew of earthquakes in Italy’s region of Emilia-Romagna. Occurring in May and well into June—the most recent of which I felt a few days ago in Rimini, an earthquake centered in Ravenna—the earthquakes destroyed many historic buildings and left important businesses in shambles. Over 15,000 people were left homeless and many lost their lives. In short, much of Italy’s perhaps most productive region was left shattered.
Emilia-Romagna produces much of the world’s most revered food products (prosciutto, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Sangiovese, aceto balsamico di Modena, etc.) and maintains timeless art, while housing a population of some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. The beautiful medieval towns are irreplaceable, and they provide as tourist attractions for a country that really needs it.
But how can you help if you live in the United States?
The fine folks at L’Italo Americano Newspaper are currently running a campaign to raise funds for the victims of the Emilia-Romagna earthquakes. While any donation amount is accepted, anyone contributing over $50 and fans them on Facebook gets a free annual subscription to the publication.
Of all the small towns in Emilia-Romagna that I’ve seen so far, none have taken my breath away as thoroughly as Brisighella. The colors of the city, rich with influences from nearby Tuscany, pop in the sun with warm hues. The buildings were constructed higher to accommodate for larger families, making the homes here stretch further up than those of many other Italian cities. Even more intriguing is the indoor public street, created as a defense against invaders. Markets and donkey stalls were once held in these elevated walkways, creating a bustling but hidden-from-view social center.
I had heard that the view from high atop Campidoglio, one of the seven hills in Rome where the Musei Capitolini sits, is quite beautiful, and I’m happy to discover that this bit of info does not disappoint. The museum itself is quite grand, housing an impressive collection of paintings and sculptures.
Remember Bernini’s Medusa that made its way to San Francisco at the beginning of this year? It’s back home now at the Musei, though just resting against the side wall amid the special exhibition, Lux in arcana, rather than occupying center stage as it did in SF. The aforementioned exhibition was by far my favorite attraction here. It’s a presentation of historic documents from the Vatican Secret Archives, from writings officially condemning Martin Luther to letters written from both Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis to the Pope during the Civil War.
Back to the views. Here is a video taken from the museums’ cafe (I did not add the opera; there was a woman rehearsing in the event space behind me), and photos of the sunset over Rome taken from a lesser-known garden at the side of the Palazzo dei Conservatori.